Building wealth isn’t always easy.
It can be very hard, depending on the path you choose.
I learned from my Rich Habits Study that there are four very different paths towards accumulating wealth.
Some paths are harder than others:
Hardest Path to Building Wealth – The Dreamer/Entrepreneur Path
Pursuing a dream can be the most rewarding thing you ever did, not only in terms of fulfilment but also financially.
The Dreamer/Entrepreneurs in my study loved what they did for a living and that passion showed up in their bank accounts.
My Dreamers/Entrepreneurs had an average Net Worth of $7.4 million. Far more than any group of millionaires in my study.
Costs of being a Dreamer/Entrepreneur:
- Long Work Hours – The average Dreamer/Entrepreneur in my study worked an average of 61 hours a week, for twelve years. Weekends and vacations were almost non-existent. Those long work hours impacted everyone in the Dreamer’s immediate orbit. Family and friends are hit the hardest by their absence. Often one spouse must take up the slack and raise their children as if they were a single parent. Close friendships whither on the vine, due to those long work hours.
Financial Stress – Until the Dream begins to pay off, making ends meet can cause almost intolerable stress. Only the strong can survive that stress and that includes the spouses. In the early going, getting a steady paycheck is near impossible. Weak marriages will almost certainly fall apart, leading to divorce.
- High Risk – Dreamers put everything they own on the line – their homes, retirement plans, and savings become the assets that finance their Dream. When a Dreamer runs out of assets, they turn to debt to keep their Dream alive. The lucky ones are eventually able to secure Lines of Credit to keep them afloat. The unlucky ones rely on credit cards or loans from family and friends to survive until they thrive. If they thrive. Pursuing a Dream is a gamble. There’s absolutely no guarantee that the Dream will every pay off. Many fail. In fact, 27% in my Rich Habits Study failed at least once. Failure can mean bankruptcy. Oftentimes, that bankruptcy is followed up with divorce.
Second Hardest Path to Building Wealth – The Big Company Climber Path
Climbers are individuals who work for a big company and spend most of their careers climbing the ladder until they reach the upper echelons – senior executive status.
In my Rich Habits Study, it took the Climbers about 22 years to accumulate an average Net Worth of $3.4 million. Much of that wealth came from either stock compensation or a partnership share of profits.
Costs of being a Climber:
- Long Work Hours – Like the Dreamers, Climbers have to work long hours, which often includes weekends. Most Climbers have to travel regularly. Airports, hotel rooms and taxis become a way of life. And very often, Climbers have to work during weekends and on vacations.
- Political Experts – Besides the hard work, Climbers must possess expert political skills. Those with expert political skills are able to outmanoeuvre their internal competitors – other Climbers, biting at their heels and stabbing them in the back, as opportunities present themselves. There is always some other Climber seeking to undermine you in order to advance their personal agenda, which is usually the same as yours – climbing further up the ladder.
- Power Relationships – You must also have master relationship-building skills. Those who succeed in reaching the upper echelons of a big company are almost certainly the best at building relationships both within the organisation they work for and within their industry. Building these strong, powerful relationships, however, takes time, energy and money. Frequent phone calls, entertainment, going to weddings, birthday parties or funerals and sending thoughtful cards or for special occasions. Just managing all of those Power Relationships can take up a big part of your workday.
- Risk – Like the Dreamer Path, the Climber Path has some unique risks. If the company struggles financially, for whatever reason, your time investment in that company may not be rewarded, to the extent you expected.
Third Hardest Path to Building Wealth – The Virtuoso Path
When you are a Virtuoso, it means you are among the top experts in your industry or field.
That expertise may be knowledge-based or skill-based.
Virtuosos are paid a high premium for their expertise.
That high premium means they are able to earn more money than their non-Virtuoso peers.
Costs of being a Virtuoso:
- Significant Investment – Becoming a Virtuoso requires an enormous investment in time, and often money. Knowledge-based Virtuosos must spend many years in continuous study. Oftentimes, this requires formal education, such as advanced degrees (PhD, Medical Degrees, Law Degrees, etc.). Skill-based Virtuosos devote themselves to many years of Deliberate Practice and Analytical Practice. Deliberate Practice requires many years of honing your skills. Analytical Practice often requires the services of a coach, mentor or expert who can provide immediate feedback. This feedback, in most cases, costs money.
- Long Hours – Like the Dreamer and Climber, the Virtuoso has to work long hours, not only in perfecting their knowledge or skills, but also in maintaining and using them. Virtuosos are rare and, therefore, in high demand. That demand means many long hours serving the needs of others in exchange for money.
Easiest Path to Building Wealth – The Saver-Investor Path
What if I told you that there is an easy, guaranteed way to accumulate wealth?
There is a path to becoming a self-made millionaire that does not require any unique set of skills, does not require special knowledge, does not require taking significant risks and does not require long, oppressive work hours, isolating you from your family and friends.
The Saver-Investor Path is not only the easiest path to building wealth, it is also the guaranteed path to building wealth.
But this easy, guaranteed path does have four requirements:
- Middle-Class Income – It’s hard to save when you are poor. Most of the poor are barely able to meet the costs of even a low standard of living. But, if you have a middle-class income and keep your standard of living low, this will give you the ability to save.
- Discipline – The Saver-Investor who is able to accumulate significant wealth does so by saving 20% or more of their income and living off the remaining amount. This requires discipline in how you spend money.
- Consistency – Saver-Investors consistently save and consistently invest their savings so that their wealth can grow every year.
- Time – The Saver-Investor millionaires in my Rich Habits Study consistently saved 20% or more of their income and invested those savings over an average of 32 years.
In my Rich Habits Study this group of millionaires accumulated an average of $3.3 million.
This path requires that you start early – almost immediately upon entering the adult work force.
If you start later in life, and still desire to retire wealthy, you will have to increase your savings rate by 10% for every ten years you failed to save and work longer.
For example, if you decide to pursue the Saver-Investor Path in your mid-thirties, you will have to increase your annual savings to 30% of your net income and work into your mid-sixties.
If you start in your mid-forties, you will have to increase your annual savings to 40% and work into your mid-seventies.